Turkey trot

In this Daily Planet file photo, runners participate in the inaugural San Miguel County Turkey Trot. After last year’s cancelation, the event returns this year on Thanksgiving morning. (Planet file photo)

The annual San Miguel County Turkey Trot is back. Thanksgiving morning, join the county in your best turkey regalia and run, or walk, the 5K on Ilium Road. Check-in opens at 9 a.m., and the race begins at 9:30 a.m.

The race in Ilium Valley first started in 2012, but was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The event is free, and everybody is welcome. San Miguel County Parks Supervisor Rich Hamilton is excited that the event is back on for the holidays.

"It's an opportunity to bring families together because it's everybody: the dogs, the babies, grandparents, and they can all come out and don’t have to run, they can walk and have fun, and I think that's the important part," Hamilton said.

Raffles and free swag will be given out during the event, as well as prizes for the winners. The raffles are all Thanksgiving food centric, Hamilton explained. Participants have the chance to go home with half of a ham, pie, smoked turkey and turkey drumsticks. Pumpkin pies from Baked in Telluride will be awarded to the fastest man and woman, as well as for the best costume. The fastest child under 12 years old will receive a $25 gift certificate to Zia Sun.

The race has changed quite a bit since 2012. The first year, the San Miguel Turkey Trot was a four-mile, cross-country run and a two-mile walk.

"In 2013, we decided to go with a more traditional 5K, which you see across the country, and we've been doing it ever since," Hamilton said.

There were 42 attendees at the first race in 2012, he added. In 2019, the race topped over 100 participants.

Turkey trots across the country have been steadily increasing in popularity. The first turkey trot was in 1896 in Buffalo, New York. According to runnersworld.com, the race was an 8K hosted by the local YMCA. Six runners participated, and only four crossed the finish line. Over the course of the past 125 years, the Buffalo Turkey Trot became so popular that registration is now capped at 14,000 participants.

Janet Kask, county parks and open space director, attributes the initial inception of the turkey trot to the rise in national popularity.

“I think people were aware of turkey trots elsewhere. And we said, ‘Why don't we do that as well? Or offer it up to the community?’ Because it just grew in popularity so quickly," Kask said.

Turkey trots tend to focus on the community and participation rather than competition. A lot of American families have incorporated the race into their Thanksgiving traditions.

"We get racers who participate each and every year because they consider this the kickoff to their holiday. They come here, and then they go home and enjoy their Thanksgiving meal," Kask said.

A theme within most turkey trots is the costume aspect. People adorn turkey and Thanksgiving-themed outfits for the run. While costumes are not required, they are strongly encouraged, Hamilton added. Hamilton said he dresses up every year and can be seen this Thanksgiving dressed as a turkey.

He expects the turnout to be the highest since 2019 due to Telski recently postponing the opening date to Dec. 3.

"This year, people will be able to burn some calories and not have to worry about saving energy for ski runs," Hamilton said.

After last year's cancelation, Hamilton and Kask are excited and ready to resume the local turkey trot.

"Everybody understood, but there were a lot of people who were just bummed about it because it was one more element of a whole family holiday tradition that was taken away. We're just grateful to bring it back," Kask said.

The deadline for online registration is Wednesday by 2 p.m. via the San Miguel County website at sanmiguelcountyco.gov. People can still sign up after that, but will not be eligible for raffles or prizes.